Biennial Report of the Executive Secretary 1994-1995


The present report highlights the activities of the Economic Commission for Africa during the period 1994-1995, the second biennium of the 1992-1997 Medium-term Plan. The period was marked by consolidation of the transitions occurring in member States and deepening of the process of renewal and reform at ECA which itself, was an important element in responding to the changes taking place in the member States. A most significant and promising trend related to the economic performance of the region: regional output in the two years are estimated to have grown by over 2 per cent (2.1 per cent in 1994 and 2.3 per cent in 1995). Compared with the performance of other developing regions and Africa's own population growth rate during the same period, the growth was modest indeed. Yet there were an improvement over the less than 1 per cent of the previous biennium.

The relatively improved economic performance during 1994-1995 period, taken together with the deepening of economic reforms, the end of conflicts in several countries, and the renewed commitment to political liberalization - all hold out much hope and promise for Africa's development. Sustaining these positive trends must rank high on the priorities of the member States as well as in institutions like ECA, whose main role is to be a catalyst for progress in the region, both by assisting member States in their development and promoting international cooperation in support of regional development efforts.

One particularly important area in which ECA's catalytic role was demonstrated pertained to assisting African countries prepare for the various international conferences held during the biennium. Thus, ECA organized African regional preparatory meetings to articulate African Common Positions for the World Summit for Social Development (1995) and the fourth World Conference on Women (1995). The vehicle of the ECA Conference of Ministers responsible for Economic and Social Development and Planning was also used to prepare an African Memorandum to the Global Mid-term Review of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries (1995).

Just as a corporation striving to remain competitive in the marketplace has to innovate its products and processes, so must a regional institution keen on serving its member States better reinvent itself to be of high-quality service. Hence, the single important reason for the reforms and renewal that have been embarked upon is to position ECA to remain an important contributor in the process of Africa's economic and social re-birth. The nature and scope of the current reforms at ECA, the highlights of which are given in the last chapter of this report, attest to the Commission's commitment to institutional renewal.

By definition, the effort at reform of the Commission is a collective effort, because many stakeholders are involved. It requires the support of the member States and goodwill of Africa's development partners. But it also requires the commitment of the staff of the Commission and executive leadership, which I pledge to give. Working together, I am sure that a renewed ECA can truly serve Africa better.

K.Y. Amoako
Executive Secretary
Addis Ababa
22 April 1996


The biennial report of the Executive Secretary is a vehicle for reporting on the activities of the Commission as carried out by its main policy organs, its subsidiary bodies and the secretariat in assisting member States to tackle the socio-economic development problems facing them. The present report covers the period 1994-1995, the second biennium of the 1992-1997 Medium-term Plan.

During the l994-1995 biennium, the Commission, operating within its broad mandate of promoting the economic and social development of the African region, focused its actions and activities around the following key areas: advocating economic and social policies; articulating plans and strategies; strengthening institutions for development; and providing technical assistance to member States and their intergovernmental organizations (IGOs).

The substantive work of the Commission was carried out under nine subprogrammes, namely Development issues and policies; Trade, regional economic cooperation and integration; Poverty alleviation through sustainable development; Development administration and management; Human resources and social transformation; Statistical and information systems development; Natural resources and energy development; and Women in develop-ment. The issues of capacity building, gender and economic cooperation and integration were cross-cutting themes that were treated across the subprogrammes.

In the area of development issues and policies, the work programme addressed broad macroeconomic policy issues of concern to member States. Emphasis was also placed on research and analysis related to national mechanisms for the review and appraisal of socio-economic conditions; the development of methodologies and techniques for enhanced national development planning. Particular attention was given to the peculiar problems of the least developed countries (LDCs) in Africa. Activities in this area included the provision of assistance to member States to implement the provisions of the Paris Declaration and Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the 1990s.

With regard to trade, regional economic cooperation and integration in Africa, the imple-mentation of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community occupied a significant part of ECA's activities during the period 1994-1995. The issues addressed in this regard were the strengthening of the regional economic com-munities especially through institutional develop-ment and elaboration of programmes; promoting intra-African trade; strengthening institutional capacity for monetary and financial integration and the development of tourism. Attention was also paid to Africa's position in world trade. In this regard, the secretariat, inter alia, prepared a number of studies an analyses on the implica-tions on the Uruguay Round Agreement on the region's development.

The interrelated issues of food and agri-culture, population, the environment and human settlements were addressed under the subpro-gramme "Poverty alleviation through sustainable development". The thrust of Commission's work in this area was to help advance the understanding and management of the interrela-tionships among the issues on this nexus which is at the heart of the poverty syndrome in Africa.

Activities in the area of development administration and management continued to focus on the articulation of policies and strategies to dynamize public sector manage-ment, especially in its regulatory role and in the promotion of measures to enhance the effi-ciency of the public service in the management of scarce development resources. The active involvement of a broad-section of civil society including the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other interest groups in the socio-economic development process was vigorously pursued through a mix of interven-tions to promote their participation.

The thrust of the work programme in the area of human resources development and social transformation was on the promotion of human- and social-centred development policies and strategies in the region. Activities focused on the essentials of planning the development and utilization of human resources and social development; building and strengthening human and institutional capacities; fostering popular participation and reinforcing the social dimen-sion of development.

In the area of statistical and information systems development, emphasis was on the need to build national, subregional and regional capacities to generate and facilitate the flow and exchange of statistical data and information in support of sustainable development and regional integration. The programme addressed these concerns through activities which paid special attention to the human, institutional and infrastructural capacity required for the generation, processing and exchange of statis-tical data and information. Support was pro-vided in the areas of training and other staff development opportunities; the introduction of technological innovations for enhancing the flow of information and communication; the estab-lishment of institutional frameworks and mechanisms and networks for accessing information.

The development and management of Africa's natural resources and energy remains one of the major challenges facing the region. In addressing this challenge, the Commission assisted member States to formulate appropriate policies and programmes. Specifically, it under-took a number of operational activities, mainly through the organization of meetings at which, among other things, the following emerged: formulation of programmes of action calling for the development of capacities and capabilities by African countries for the development and utilization of mineral resources and energy so as to enhance their contribution to the socio-economic development of the region; recom-mendations aimed at enhancing cooperation among governments and the private sector for the sustainable development and management of natural resources and energy as an important basis for boosting value added in processing and for industrial development generally.

Activities in the area of infrastructural and structural transformation were particularly

directed at the implementation of the two major decade programmes in Africa, namely the second United Nations Transport and Com-munications Decade in Africa (UNTACDA II) and the second Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA II) as well as the application of science and technology for the development of sustainable industrial capacities and efficient transport and communication systems.

ECA's work in the area of women in development was wide-ranging and catalytic, adding to the many initiatives for the creation of an enabling environment for the enhancement of women's participation and contribution to the region's development. The secretariat provided an important leadership role in Africa's parti-cipation in the fourth World Conference on Women.

Advisory services to complement work in all the above areas were provided to countries and IGOs through the secretariat's regular programme of technical cooperation. Short-term advisory services were provided to member States and their IGOs on request by the ECA Multidisciplinary Regional Advisory Group (ECA-MRAG) on a wide range of issues and policies.

ECA continued to cooperate with several development partners, including multilateral and bilateral agencies, other United Nations pro-grammes, as well as NGOs in the furtherance of Africa's development. Cooperative relationships provided the secretariat with the flexibility needed to address the broad spectrum of issues that faced African member States in the biennium under review.

A major exercise of reform and renewal has been initiated at the Commission to enable it to serve Africa better. The reforms cover policy orientation, programme focus, organiza-tional structure and management practices. They are guided by the principles of excellence, cost-effectiveness and effective partnerships.